One sure sign of a maturing industry is the formation of business-based associations of like-minded individuals and organisations.
Accountants band together as a bunch of merry men called Chartered Practising Accountants. Doctors seek to extend the average life expectancy under the guise of the Australian Medical Association. Lawyers conspire to extract all the money from the country through the Australian Law Society. Retailers protect their interests through the Australian Retailers Association.
Every trade and profession, from plumbers to teachers, has a central body through which it can lobby the powers that be into understanding their purpose in life, the universe and everything. Even undertakers, garbologists and journalists have a body to protect, regulate and speak publicly for them.
So why not resellers, distributors, application developers, service providers and systems assemblers?
While the IT industry does have a sprinkling of industry associations, they are either at the vendor level or the individual level.
There's the Business Software Association of Australia (BSAA), which is basically a local subsidiary of an American organisation dominated by three or four of the world's biggest software vendors, there's the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), which is a broader vendor-based organisation, and then there's the Australian Computer Society, for individual professionals.
All well and good but, from experience, I can assure you they are generally aloof when it comes to the interests, concerns and functionality of what we call "the channel".
Other than the esteemed publication you are currently reading, there is no single body that works for the collective good of the thousands of businesses that make up the IT distribution supply chain. There is no body that accredits, supports and champions resellers, systems assemblers, software developers and service providers.
But there should be.
Honest independent dealers want protection from their dodgy counterparts. Quality local software developers are sick of losing out to better-marketed internationals. Our booming white-box industry wants to get a larger slice of the big government and corporate tenders. Distributors want improved understanding of and respect for the value they introduce to the supply chain.
It is only when the channel as a whole and each of the individual niches, tiers and verticals band together to protect their own interests that any of these cries will be heard.
Three years ago, everyone was too busy making money to recognise the need for such alliances. For the last 18 months, most people have been too focused on staying afloat and retaining jobs to have time to do so.
Maybe now, with the shakeout almost complete and with clearer weather on the horizon, it's the right time for such an organisation, or organisations, to come into existence.
Where, for example, is the Australian IT Distributors Association, which could campaign against channel stuffing, among a host of other things? Who is prepared to get started on building the White Box Assemblers Society of Australia, which would eradicate the misconception that global branded PCs are better? How do we fire up the Independent Computer Dealers Collective, which would ensure that consumers are dealing with suitably skilled and ethical suppliers?
Personally, and on a lighter note, as a motorcyclist and an information technology distribution channel advocate, I would like to form my own group, Bikers in the IT Channel (BITCH).
Gerard Norsa is editor of Australian Reseller News.
Reach him at email@example.com.